Las Vegas Real Estate: A Story of Banking and Political Fraud Distorting Supply and Demand

The Michelle Sterling Las Vegas Real Estate Team has been struggling for the past four months to solve a perplexing riddle that is destroying our resale market. What is our conundrum? In Las Vegas, Nevada (and nationwide as well) the VAST MAJORITY of bank foreclosed homes are NOT FOR SALE. That’s right, in the #1 city in America for foreclosures, it’s almost impossible to buy a bank-owned home. How can this be? Read on….the answer will blow you away.

Lets begin with a little background. Local and national business reporters and analysts have been wrestling for months now with the mysterious issue of “phantom bank-foreclosure inventory”. Real Estate Reporter Diana Olick writes the CNBC “Realty Check” Blog and posted a story on July 8th that asked the question everyone wants the answer to…

“I’m slightly obsessed with the inventory of existing homes floating around the nation’s local MLS’s and more importantly those not floating around the MLS’s. I’m talking about the inventory of foreclosed properties that banks are holding onto, refusing to unleash onto the sales market.”

CNBC’s Diana Olick goes on to ask….

“So why are the banks holding on to these properties?”

And goes on to conclude that….

“I think there are other forces at work that we need to watch closely.”

Here’s a link to that blog post – Bank Owned Inventory: Move it!

http://www.cnbc.com/id/31801754

Other forces at work ?? Believe me, you have NO idea, and the answer will disgust you, unless you happen to be a top executive at a bank that got flooded with TARP money that you can spend any way you want without proper rules, restrictions and oversight.

The story begins on Capitol Hill in a closed-door congressional hearing room. Political pressure was aggressively applied to the head of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to create a massive new loophole in bank balance-sheet regulations that essentially gave a “go pass” to ignore financial reality in the US mortgage/housing market, right on bank balance sheets, right where it matters most.

On Friday, July 17th, Charlie Rose (PBS) broadcast a piece of investigative discussion entitled “Update on Wall St.” The segment runs for 24 minutes, and between the times of 12:35 and 15:45, two distinguished financial journalists tell the inside story of how congressional pressure (at the behest of the banking lobby no doubt) led to the creation of a fraudulently deceptive accounting loophole that has (in turn) led directly to the blatant manipulation of supply and demand in the the market for Las Vegas foreclosures. You have to watch it to believe it. Here’s what you’re in store for….

“…they [the banks] got Congress to force the regulators to let them conceal how bad they [toxic mortgage assets] were…”

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10485

Now, go back to Diana Olick’s blog post and look again at the very important questions/issues she raises, and then ask yourself if the Charlie Rose discussion didn’t answer those issues directly and clearly.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/31801754

As the Charlie Rose piece elucidated, there were two critical pieces to the puzzle, and the banks couldn’t get where they needed to be without both situations/issues firmly in hand. The unregulated use of the TARP money was a great thing, but without the new FASB balance-sheet loophole, a huge chunk of the TARP money would have had to be spent on loan-loss reserves and the bolstering of capital positions due to massive write-downs. Alternatively, the FASB loophole was a major score for the banks and their well-paid lobbyists, but without the TARP billions to live off of, how could the banks carry massive amounts of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities on their books at FANTASY prices (usually on a non-performing basis) and still stay in business ??

Here’s the biggest tragedy….and biggest joke of all. The TARP money was supposed to play a major role in facilitating the timely and reality-based “clean up” of toxic mortgage-based assets on bank balance sheets, as well as aiding in the introduction of new lending to help stimulate the desperately crippled economy. Ha !! So much for that !!

How is all of this effecting the market for Las Vegas homes specifically? RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., company that tracks foreclosure activity nationwide reported on July 16th that Nevada led the nation in foreclosure filings for the first half of 2009. Clark County was actually #1 in the nation on that list, with 1 in 13 Southern Nevada households receiving a foreclosure filing. Believe me, this is nothing new. Greater Las Vegas has been leading the nation in foreclosures for the better part of a year. On that basis, wouldn’t you think that there would be an abundance of bank-owned homes available for your viewing and purchasing pleasure ?? Well….actually….NO….there isn’t.

The Las Vegas MLS (multiple listing service) database is essentially bone-dry when it comes to bank-owned homes for sale. Go back to the Charlie Rose discussion…and I’m quoting Floyd Norris directly here…

“They have given the banks enough money that they don’t have to sell….they have received so many billions that they can carry this stuff for awhile”

Las Vegas-based research firm SalesTraq documents that existing-home sales in Southern Nevada have exceeded the supply of newly available bank foreclosures for the last four months in a row. This is simply insane, and makes no sense on a supply and demand basis, but makes total sense if you are a bank with plenty of taxpayer supplied TARP money that allows you to sit on your massive residential inventory and sell almost nothing for the time being (no doubt hoping for greener selling pastures/prices down the road).

How strong is current demand for Las Vegas real estate at current prices?

NEW YORK, July 7 (Reuters) – Sales of residential homes in Las Vegas, one of the hardest hit regions in the three-year U.S. housing slump, soared to a record high in June, according to published reports. Sales of single-family homes and condominiums jumped nearly 87 percent to 4,702 in June from a year earlier, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported.

The Michelle Sterling Team is flooded with buyers that want to purchase bank-owned residential real estate in Las Vegas, Nevada but are all but unable to do so, due to an almost complete lack of available inventory. This is worse than ridiculous, in my opinion, with 14 years of experience as a Las Vegas Realtor….it’s downright fraudulent.

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